Team MTN’s Adrian Niyonshuti leaves the rest Down and Dirty
Melt Swanepoel’s happy trail tale of the fourth edition of the Nissan MTB Series. Read about it here…
After the previuos week’s disappointment of not being able to participate at the MTN Cullinan Utra Marathon due to illness, I was determined to give the Nissan Down and Dirty race in Pretoria a good shot. Obviously I was after a good result, but I also wanted to test my body and see where I stood after my health glitch.
This was the fourth stop on the immensely popular series and the summer weather was sure to bring out an even larger field than usual.
The ‘neutral start’ was in fact flat out as HB Kruger (Supercycling Academy) and Renier Bellingan flew off the start line to open an immediate gap. Due to a bad starting position I had to make up quite some ground while also negotiating my way through slower traffic. Bellingan couldn’t keep pace with Kruger and was soon despatched back to our chasing group, before dropping back even further. This left Paul Cordes, Adrian Niyonshuti (both MTN), Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin/Adidas) and me (Mr Price/Specialized) chasing after lone leader Kruger.
We finally caught up to Kruger on a long uphill drag and Niyonshuti immediately put in a big surge which saw Cordes and Bassingthwaighte drop off the lead group. For the next few kilometres we were all riding really hard trying to test each other for any sign of weakness, while Paul and Marc were chasing just behind. Somewhere during all of this I cut my front tire and although the tire sealant did its thing, a substantial amount of air had been lost. This made for interesting cornering to say the least!
At about the halfway point the course turned onto very open and exposed roads. With the prevailing strong winds it became a definite advantage to ride in someone’s slipstream. This was where Niyonshuti promptly decided to cease his contribution to the pace making. While he was sitting on, Kruger and I got on with the job at hand and made turns to pace into the gusting head and side winds.
This carried on until about 5km to go when all my sprinting out of every corner (due to my somewhat deflated front tire) and last week’s illness caught up to me. Kruger started pulling away and after sitting on my wheel for a while longer, Niyonshuti jumped across to the strong youngster. With his energy reserves well preserved after sitting on so much Niyonshuti had enough in the tank to get around the youngster for the win.
In stark contrast my fuel reserves were running VERY low, to the point of me seeing starry skies in broad daylight! This was all a very persistent chase duo of Marc and Paul needed to catch and pass me with less than 1km left to the finish line as they wrapped up 3rd and 4th place respectively. At first I was disappointed with my result but upon reflection the race held a lot of positives for me – not least of all that I was healthy and racing again!
The organisers did a great job putting together such a testing route in the middle of a highly populated area and the series is also throwing up some names to keep a close eye on in the future. It all bodes well for mountain biking!
1. Adrian Niyonshuti (MTN)
2. HB Kruger (Supercycling Academy)
3. Marc Bassingthwaighte (Garmin/Adidas)
4. Paul Cordes (MTN)
5. Melt Swanepoel (Mr Price/Specialized)
Until next time, happy trails!